10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Quilts

More and more backpackers are switching from sleeping bags to backpacking quilts because they’re lighter weight, more compressible, and more comfortable, especially for side sleepers. While top quilts have always been popular with the hammock crowd because they’re easier to use in the confined space of a hammock, they’re also a great sleeping system option for ground sleepers, when coupled with a sleeping pad. Backpacking quilts are ideal for summer and warm weather since they’re so easy to vent if you’re too hot. But in freezing temperatures, starting at 20 degrees and below, most backpackers still prefer a sleeping bag because the wraparound fabric is less drafty.

Here are our choices for the top 10 best backpacking quilts based on price, insulation, temperature rating, weight, features, versatility, sizing, and availability (see below for detailed explanations of each criterion.) Most of these quilts are made and sold by so-called cottage manufacturers, which range in size from one-man shops to medium-sized businesses that employ dozens of people. All of them produce very high-quality products that are significantly lighter weight and better performing than the quilts produced by mass-market gear companies like ENO, Therm-a-Rest, Kammock, Sea-to-Summit, or NEMO.

The advantage of buying a custom or semi-custom-made quilt from a cottage manufacturer is that you can personalize it with added features, higher quality/lighter weight insulation, or custom fabric colors. An increasing number of quilt makers also offer Economy quilts made with a limited set of options that are much less expensive and often available immediately. These are a great option if you’re trying a backpacking quilt for the first time and overwhelmed by the customization choices available.

1. Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt

Revelation Custom Quilt
The Enlightened Equipment Revelation is a quilt that can be used in a hammock or for sleeping on the ground. It’s available as a Custom or Economy model in a wide range of different lengths, widths, colors, temperature ratings, and fabric weights. The Revelation comes with an excellent pad attachment system, a zippered/ drawstring footbox, half taper, and an optional draft collar. You can also choose from two different grades of down: 850 or 950 fill power down. A Custom Revelation 20*F with all the bells and whistles weighs 21.3 oz and costs $420. Read our Revelation Quilt review.

Check for the latest price at:
Enlightened Equipment

2. UGQ Outdoor Bandit Top Quilt

UGQ Bandit

The UGQ Bandit is a top quilt that’s equally at home in a hammock or on the ground in a tent. It’s available as a Custom or Economy model in a wide range of different lengths, widths, colors, temperature ratings, and fabrics. UGQ offers a choice of two sleeping pad attachment systems for the Bandit, 800, 850, and 950 fill power down, a zippered/ drawstring footbox, half taper, draft collar, and back tensioning system to reduce drafts. A Custom Bandit 20*F with all the bells and whistles weighs 23 oz and costs $345. A highly compressible synthetic-insulated Bandit will also be available in early 2020. Read our latest UGQ Bandit Quilt Review.

Check for the latest price at:
UGQ Outdoor

3. Nunatak Arc UL Quilt

Nunatak arc-ul

The Nunatak Arc UL is a quilt primarily designed for ground use although it can serve double duty in a hammock. It is only available on a Custom-made basis, with a wide range of temperature ratings, lengths, and widths, with or without a draft collar, back tensioning system, with or without a pad attachment system, and several different outer shells and liner fabrics that emphasize breathability or water repellency. One of the unique options available on the Arc UL is the installation of external snaps that allow you to layer a synthetic quilt with it for cold weather use. The Arc UL is also available with 900 fill power goose down, treated or untreated. A Custom Arc UL 20*F with all the bells and whistles weighs 21 oz and costs $425.

Check for the latest price at:
Nunatak

4. Katabatic Gear Flex Quilt Sleeping Bag

KB Flex 40
The Katabatic Gear Flex is a quilt primarily intended for ground use but it can serve double duty in a hammock. It’s available with regular or waterproof goose down and comes with a good sleeping pad attachment system to help prevent side drafts. The Flex also has a very desirable draft collar that snugs around your neck and prevents heat from escaping when you move around at night. The Flex footbox can be zippered closed and has a draw-string vent, or you can open it completely and use the quilt as a blanket. Katabatic Gear has a well-deserved reputation for making quilts that exceed their temperature rating. A Flex 22*F weighs 22 oz and costs $370. Read our Flex Quilt Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Katabatic Gear

5. Loco Libre Ghost Pepper Quilt

LL Ghost Pepper

The Loco Libre Gear Ghost Pepper is a down quilt made with a unique chevron style baffle, which limits the amount of down shift by catching it in the corners that the baffle forms every time it changes direction. This eliminates cold spots and means that the down stays on top, where you want it, so you can stay warm. The Ghost Pepper is available in a wide range of widths and lengths, color choices, insulation types, and foot box styles. You can also add a sleeping pad attachment system and a draft collar. This can all be very confusing for first-time quilt buyers, but they are very patient and happy to explain “the why” before you buy. A Custom Ghost Pepper 20*F weighs in at 19 oz and costs $305. Read our Ghost Pepper Review

Check for the latest price at:
Loco Libre

6. Warbonnet Diamondback Top Quilt

Warbonnet Diamondback Quilt
The Warbonnet Diamondback is a down quilt made using Warbonnet’s constriction-point baffle pattern that uses a series of constrictions in the baffle pattern to isolate both halves of the quilt, reducing downshift, and letting you position overfill where you want it the most. The Diamondback is available as a Custom-made quilt or an Economy model. Available customizations include a wide range of widths and lengths, color choices, insulation types, foot box styles, a draft collar, back tensioning system, and pad attachment system.  A regular-sized Custom Diamondback 20*F with all the bells and whistles weighs in at 19.5 oz and costs $415.

Check for the latest price at:
Warbonnet Outdoors

7. Hammock Gear Burrow

Burrow
The Hammock Gear Burrow is a quality top quilt, best for hammock use, but available with a cord/mitten hook sleeping pad attachment option. It’s available in a premium Custom form as well as an Economy Model. Hammock Gear was the first cottage manufacturer company to introduce less expensive, limited function “Econ” quilts and deserves a lot of credit for helping to expand the quilt user base. The Burrow is available in a wide range of sizes, colors, lengths, widths, multiple fill powers, overfills, and footbox styles, but lacks a draft collar option. A Custom 20*F Burrow with all the bells and whistles weighs 21 oz and costs $353, while a comparable 20*F Econ model weighs 26 oz and costs $203. Read our Burrow Econ review.

Check for the latest price at:
Hammock Gear

8. Feathered Friends Flicker UL

Feathered Friends Flicker UL Quilt Sleeping Bag

The Feathered Friends Flicker UL Quilt Sleeping Bag has a full-length zipper that lets it be used as an open-backed quilt or a wraparound sleeping bag. It has a draft collar, zipper draft tube and is insulated with 950 fill power goose down. The Flicker is available in 20, 30, and 40-degree models, in regular and long lengths, and regular and wide widths. We love its versatility and simplicity, especially in colder weather when you want to completely block out all drafts without having to fuss with sleeping bag straps. A 20*F Flicker UL weighs 25.2 oz and costs $424.00. Read our Flicker UL Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Feathered Friends

9. Enlightened Equipment Conundrum

Enlightened Equipment Conundrum

The Enlightened Equipment Conundrum is a quilt sleeping bag with a closed foot box and a 3/4 length zipper. It’s ideal for people who always get cold feet or want a simple no-fuss design that can be opened wide like a quilt or zipped up to block drafts (although a sleeping bag attachment system is also available for use with it.) The Conundrum has a snap collar and a draft collar is available as an add-on option. The zipper is protected by dual draft tubes and a stiffener to prevent snags. A 20*F Conundrum UL weighs 24 oz and costs $450.00. Customized and economy models are available.

Check for the latest price at:
Enlightened Equipment

10. Zpacks Classic Quilt Sleeping Bag

Zpacks Classic Quilt
The Zpacks Classic Quilt Sleeping Bag has a 3/4 length zipper so you can open it up on warm nights and use it as a quilt or zip it up for a draft-free sleep when temperatures drop. The Classic is insulated with 950 fill power water-resistant down and available in multiple lengths, widths, and temperature ratings. An elastic cord is used to tighten the bag around your neck to prevent drafts but the Classic does not come with a pad attachment system. A regular-sized Zpacks Classic 20*F weighs 19.3 oz and costs $379.

Check for the latest price at:
 Zpacks

Backpacking Quilt Selection Criteria

Here is a list of factors to consider when selecting an ultralight backpacking quilt.

Quilt Insulation

High-quality goose and duck down with fill powers of 800, 850, 900, and 950 provide excellent insulation by weight and are widely preferred by backpackers because they’re so lightweight. In addition to excellent compressibility, quilts insulated with down will last for decades of use if properly cared for. Some manufacturers only offer down that’s been treated with a water-repellent coating, while others prefer to offer it unadulterated. Down is naturally water-resistant so the jury is still out on whether “treated” down lasts as long and insulates as well in the real world vs. a testing lab. Regardless, with a little care and common sense, you can keep a down quilt dry by carrying it in a waterproof stuff stack, picking good campsites that don’t flood in rain, and airing it out occasionally in the sun. Getting a quilt with synthetic insulation is another option and can be preferable in humid climates or for extended cold weather journeys, where it’s difficult to dry your gear.

Quilt Temperature Ratings

The introduction of standardized sleeping bag temperature ratings by the outdoor industry substantially improved their reliability. Many manufacturers had overstated their temperature ratings by as much as 10 degrees before that standard was introduced. No such testing standard exists for backpacking quilts, so you’re forced to rely on their reputation and customer reviews. When buying a backpacking quilt, the current rule of thumb is to purchase one rated for 10 degrees below your needs to ensure you’ll be warm enough. There is an enormous incentive for ultralight quilt makers to quote low gear weights, so read their customer reviews carefully.  Women may want to add 15-20 degrees of insulation because they sleep colder than men due to lower body mass. No one makes women’s specific quilts yet, although there is an obvious need for them.

Since there is no standardized test for rating the warm of a quilt, it is important to understand how manufacturers test and self-rate their quilts. Many assume that you will be wearing an insulated hat, long underwear, and socks, in addition to a sleeping pad with an R-value of 3 or higher. Contact them and ask before you purchase a quilt or you’ll likely sleep colder than expected.

Gear Weight

While gear weight is important, be careful not to sacrifice your comfort by selecting a quilt that won’t keep you warm in the conditions you need it to. In fact, insulation is usually the lightest weight component of a quilt, where the bulk of its weight comes primarily from the fabric used to make it. When choosing fabrics, consider their breathability and whether they have a DWR coating, which can be important if the foot of your quilt gets wet regularly  If you plan on using your quilt heavily, consider getting a heavier inner shell fabric as this is where the greatest wear and tear occurs over the long-term.

Standard and Custom Quilt Features

Most ultralight backpacking quilts are pretty similar when it comes right down to it. But there’s something unique about each of manufacturer’s quilts listed above that improves their performance in a unique way. For example, the use of continuous or chevron-shaped baffles, draft collars, zoned insulation, closed foot-boxes and external snaps for quilt layering, all improve cold-weather performance. A strapless pad attachment system is far more convenient and comfortable than ones that rely on straps, while a head-hole enables multi-use as a garment. Look for these differentiators because they can have a profound influence on your backpacking experience.

Here are a few of the features we’ve found important for coaxing the most warmth out of a quilt

Draft Collar

This is a tube of insulation (usually down) sewn at the neck end of the quilt than can be tightened like a scarf around your neck and upper chest. It’s designed to prevent warm air from escaping from under the quilt when you move around at night and can make a huge difference in your warmth. For ground sleepers, it’s important that the controls used to tighten the draft collar be located over your chest within easy reach of your hands if you’re lying on your back or side.

Back Tensioning System

This is an adjustable system that pulls the sides of the rear hole of a quilt together to help block cold drafts. It augments a sleeping bag attachment system and is of primary benefit to ground sleepers. Vendors use different names for it, like Dynamic Tensioning System (UGQ), Adjustable Side Elastics (Warbonnet), and Edge Tension Control (Nunatak).

Sleeping Pad Attachment Systems

There’s a lot of variability in sleeping pad attachment systems and their ability to block side drafts. We prefer ones with wide elastic straps and wafer clips (Enlightened Equipment, UGQ) because they’re easier to adjust in the dark and while you’re lying on top of a sleeping pad. We also find them to be more effective than attachment systems that use cords and/or mitten clips because these are more difficult to use when your hands are cold. All pad attachment systems are more effective when used in conjunction with a back tensioning system.

Full length or 3/4 length zippers

For cold weather quilts rated for under 20*F or if you’re a cold sleeper, we recommend that you get a quilt with 3/4 or full-length zipper. When zippered closed shut, it eliminates any chance of cold drafts, but still lets you sleep with the quilt open and draped over you in warmer weather.

Versatility

Some backpacking quilts can be used in a wider variety of ways than others, which may be an important factor based on the way you like to backpack. For example, quilts that can be fully unzipped can be used as a blanket in a wider range of temperatures that those with closed foot boxes. Wider width quilts can be used for hammocks and ground sleeping, something to consider if you plan on doing both.

Backpacking Quilt Sizing

When sizing a quilt, it’s important to understand whether the length includes the foot-box or not, since several inches of fabric are lost when forming a foot box. Quiltmakers often provide recommended heights for users when quoting sizes, so look for these. Hammock users can usually get by with narrower quilts than ground sleepers because they use underquilts that wrap around their sides and insulate them. Ground sleepers need the extra fabric and insulation to tuck under their sides to prevent drafts. A width of 55″ is a pretty standard width for ground sleepers.

Quilt Availability

Many of the quilt makers who specialize in highly customized quilts often have very long backorder times (2 months or more)  during periods of high demand. If you need a quilt and can’t wait, you’re probably better off buying a less customized, off-the-shelf model. This one factor, more than any other, can often determine which quilt you select.

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14 comments

  1. I have a Therm-a-Rest Vesper 20 UL Quilt
    It is 19 oz and I’m very happy with it. In my opinion it is better quality than Enlightenment Equipment, less expensive and was able to get it right away.

    I’m not knocking Enlightened Equipment or any of the other (have no experience with the others), it is a personal preference.

  2. Katabatic also offers an 850 duck down fill for $50 less in the 6′ regular width 30 degree size at the cost of 1 ounce in total weight. I questioned them pretty closely about it before ordering and have been very happy with it so far. Their attachment system is good, though I haven’t used another company’s for comparison.

  3. What’s your opinion on the MLD Spirit line of quilts. It is the only quilt I have ever had and their stuff is so well made. I love it but as my only frame of reference I wonder how it compares to the others you recommend.
    Thanks! I love your site BTW, such good info all the time.

  4. I have a Jacks R Better Sierra Sniveller 24 oz, 20 degree bag and it has served me well for 4 years. I think it is still a good deal today. Good quality, well made by nice people. And you can wear it as a “stylish” serape. Surprised it did not make your list.

    • I’ll bolster the comment on the Jacks R Better series, especially since Phil’s the last point, quilt availability, is moot. The Jacks keep inventory in stock, so if it’s available on the web site, it’ll ship out just about as soon as you order it. My Hudson River is a fine example of their work.

      • From the JRB website:
        “We don’t advocate attaching the quilt to the pad. Our recommendation is to sleep on the pad and simply pull the quilt over you.”

        I have to say the pad attachment system the do sell is pretty damn lame.

      • Hi Phil,

        Can’t reply to your comment, so I’ll reply to my own and quote yours in which you say, regarding a pad attachment system from JRB “I have to say the pad attachment system the do sell is pretty damn lame.”

        Maybe my search skills are bad, but I don’t see a pad attachment system on the JRB site. Are you perhaps referring to the shock cord and biners they sell to turn the Hudson River into an underquilt?

        As a dedicated hammock bigot, the pad attachment or lack thereof is a non-issue for me. I’m just trying to understand what you’re referring to on the JRB site.

        Cheers.

      • I mistook their UQ suspension system for a pad attachment system (looks at the photo only – didn’t read it). You’re right. They don’t even offer one.

  5. Hey Philip, awesome choices as usual. I would recommend you to check out the quilts by Cumulus, they seem to be right there in weight – warm ratio and quality as the top USA manufactured. Cheers.

  6. Pedro Lacaz Amaral

    Hi Philip! What about the Ember Quilt from Sea to Summit? What do you think about them?
    Best regards!

  7. The Revelation doesn’t deserve #1 and it’s not even close, more like at the bottom of this list.

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